Natural Resources, Opportunity, and Global Justice

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Natural Resources, Opportunity, and Global Justice
Phillips, John L (creator)
Tomasi, John (Director)
John, Tomasi (Reader)
Brettschneider, Corey (Reader)
Jones-Luong, Pauline (Reader)
Brown University. Political Science (sponsor)
Copyright Date
This dissertation assesses the role natural resources play in liberal conceptions of global justice. Chapter one defends the view that natural resources are in great measure social constructs. When we think of them, we should think of them as the product of sets of human relationships, not the product of natural processes. Of course they are both, but my contention is that the latter is not often useful for thinking about distributive justice. Chapter two defends the view that the popular theory linking natural resources to low economic growth and other ills is really a theory about how certain sets of political and economic institutions fail to turn opportunities into good outcomes. Chapter three examines four prominent arguments linking natural resource inequalities to arguments in favor of global distributive duties and finds that they usually fail to take into account the institutional bases for abundance and scarcity. Finally, chapter four tries to make sense of the failures described in chapter three. It recommends decreasing the salience of state sovereignty over territory and natural resources as a way of protecting vulnerable populations. It reinterprets the Lockean proviso as applied to questions of global distributive justice so as to emphasize claims to opportunity rather than claims to distributive transfers or natural resources. Similarly, claims of compensatory justice are usually best understood as claims to the restitution of unjustly seized opportunities rather than as claims to resources per se. In sum, the dissertation prefers freer trade and immigration to distributive transfers as a mechanism for legitimating existing claims of property and sovereignty that might otherwise be tainted by questions about the conditions of their acquisition or initial appropriation.
lockean proviso
global justice
property rights
principle of permanent sovereignty
social construction
Natural resources
Right of property
Resource curse
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2010)
x, 327 p.


Phillips, John L., "Natural Resources, Opportunity, and Global Justice" (2010). Political Science Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.